A seasonal crop of home grown fruit and vegetables is helping to cushion supermarket shoppers from the effect of inflation, new figures suggest.
Products such as tomatoes, apples, strawberries, raspberries and asparagus can be sourced in the UK over warmer months – and are saving retailers from having to buy in imports made pricier by the weak pound since the Brexit vote.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said this was partly shielding shoppers from price rises but warned that this would change as winter sees stores become more reliant on imported fresh food.
Monthly figures from the BRC-Nielsen shop price index showed food price inflation crept higher to 1.3% in August, up from 1.2% in July.
But within this, fresh food inflation slowed for the second month in a row, to 0.8%, from 1% the month before.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The slowdown in fresh food inflation for a second month kept a lid on overall increases in the price of the weekly grocery shop.
“The seasonal availability of fruit and vegetables from UK suppliers is currently shielding shoppers from the impact of higher import prices.
“However, as winter approaches and our dependence shifts to imported goods, that will change.”
Overall, shop prices fell by 0.3% in August compared to the same month last year, thanks to fierce competition between non-food retailers.
However that was the joint lowest rate of deflation for more than four years and adds to the evidence that a long run of falling prices is coming to an end.
Ms Dickinson said measures put in place before the pound’s sharp fall last year to smooth out the effect of currency volatility were now coming to an end – leaving retailers little option but to pass on the higher cost of imports.
“The fact is that the overall pressures on prices are still weighted upwards. That will put an increasing strain on already stretched family budgets,” she said.
The figures came as a separate BRC report warned shoppers could face empty shelves unless fresh investment and import agreements are put in place for when the UK leaves the European Union.
Without these the choice and availability of affordable, quality products was at risk, it said.
The report argued that a strong agreement on customs was not enough.
In addition, Britain’s ports, roads and infrastructure needed significant investment to be ready for Brexit while agreements on security, transit, haulage, VAT and other checks needed to be in place, the BRC argued.
Source: Sky News